Document: Letter 4
Date: after 381
Addressee: Cornelius, Bishop of Comum
English Translation: FC 26.102-105
Summary of Contents: Friendly invitation to come to the consecration of a church by Bassianus

I was not feeling well when your message came, yet when I had read it, being of one heart with you, I received no small help toward recovery, as though I had been restored to health by the sweet potion of your discourse, and also because you said that an anniversary day was fast approaching, a day most solemn for both of us, when you took hold of the helm of the high-priesthood. I had been speaking of this but a moment before to my brother Bassianus. He had started talking of the dedication of the basilica which he built and named for the Apostles, and this fact turned our conversation in your direction. In fact, he had expressed a great desire to have your Holiness present for the dedication.

Then I brought up the matter of your day of consecration, which would occur at the beginning of November. In fact, I remarked that it was close at hand and would be celebrated on the morrow. After that day passed there would not be any excuse for you. So I made a promise on your behalf, just as you can do for me. I promised him; I exacted one for myself. I took for granted that you would be present because you should be. My promise will not be any more binding than the ordinary custom you have resolved upon, namely, of doing what you should. So, you see, I made the pledge to my brother, being not so bold in the promise as I was fully acquainted with you. Come, therefore, so that you will not disappoint two priests – yourself, who would not be present, and myself, who made the promise so readily.

We shall attend your anniversary day with prayers, and may you not forget us in your prayers. Our spirit will accompany you. And when you enter the second tabernacle which is called the Holy of Holies, do as we do, that you may take us with you. When, in spirit, you burn incense in the golden censer, do not pass us by, for incense is to be found in the second tabernacle and from this your prayer becomes full of wisdom, like incense directed to heaven. In that place is the Ark of the Testament all covered with gold, that is, with the teaching of Christ, with the teaching of the Wisdom of God. There is the golden vessel containing manna, the vessel of spiritual nourishment, the storehouse of divine knowledge. There is the rod of Aaron, symbol of the grace of the priesthood. In the past it withered, but it has budded anew in Christ. There are the cherubim above the tablets of the Testament, the knowledge of holy Scripture. There is the propitiatory, and high aloft is God the Word, the image of the invisible God, who says to you: ‘I will speak to thee over the propitiatory, and from the midst of the two cherubim.’ He speaks to us in such a way that we may understand His speech. Then, because He speaks not of worldly matters but of those of the soul, He says: ‘I shall open my mouth in parables.’ Where Christ is, there are all things, there is His teaching, there forgiveness of sins, there grace, there the separation of the dead and the living.

Indeed, Aaron once stood in the midst of these furnishings of the temple, exposing himself to danger so that death would not pass over to the hosts of the living from the heaps of the dead. In the Holy of Holies, moreover, like the Word, He whom we do not see stands within each one of us, separating the faculty of reasoning from the lifeless bodies of our deadly passions and plague-ridden thoughts. He stands as one who has come into this world to dull the sting of death, to close its devouring jaws, to give everlasting grace to the living, to grant resurrection to the dead.

For Him you fight the good fight, you guard His treasure, you lend His money, as it is written: ‘You shall lend to nations.’ The profit from spiritual grace is a good thing. The Lord when He comes will demand it with interest, and when He finds that you have managed His affairs well He will give you more in return for less. It will be a very sweet delight to me that my confidence in you is warranted. Your ordination, which you received through the laying on of my hands, and through the blessing in the name of the Lord Jesus, will not be censured. Perform your task well, therefore, so that you may find a reward on that day and we may be in peace – I in you, and you in me.

The harvest of Christ is great, but the laborers are few, and it is hard to find helpers. This is an old truth. Yet the Lord is able to send laborers into His vineyard. Certainly, among the people of Como several have begun now to believe your teaching and they have received the word of

God through your instruction. He who gave followers will also give helpers, so that your need to apologize for seldom coming to see us will be removed, and we shall again have the oft-repeated favor of your company.

Farewell, and love us as you do.

Translation from FC 26.102-105, adapted by SMT

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Last updated: 4-19-2011

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